Dec. 10: Memento Mori

(Bistrian Iosip / Unsplash)

Dec. 10: Second Sunday of Advent

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness? (2 Pet 3:11)


In Muriel Spark’s 1959 novel Memento Mori, the plot revolves around an anonymous telephone caller who informs each of the elderly characters, “Remember, you must die.” The responses to this provocative announcement range from anticipation to acceptance to utter denial.

Many of us, whether healthy or ill, young or old, try to avoid thinking about our own deaths. We are abetted in this by advances in wellness practices and medical technology that promise to keep death at bay almost indefinitely. As long as we swallow the right supplements, undertake the newest exercise program, submit to the latest medical procedure, the end can be postponed.

Rather than putting our faith in these tools and procedures, none of which will ultimately prevent death, we might instead ponder Peter’s question in today’s second reading. Given that both the great wide world and our individual human lives will one day be “dissolved,” what sort of persons ought we to be? How do we want our story to end? What is important to us? What do we seek?

Whom do we love? Human time is finite; the minutes and hours will one day dissolve into the divine and eternal reality of God. Perhaps the best way for us to prepare for that life is to strive to be people of faith, focusing on what matters in this one, namely, our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the road will one day end. Let us strive to make the journey rich, purposeful, and holy.

Lord of life and death, Make me ever mindful of my life’s horizon, and keep me on course in faith and love as I travel towards it. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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Bruce Snowden
10 months 1 week ago

In 1956 when “The King And I” starring Yul Brynner and Debora Carr first appeared all the girls went crazy for Brynner, adoring his bald head! A trend started that still exists, women finding bald men attractive. I wonder if that’s the reason why the hair tonic, Vitalis, was the “thing” to buy I think no longer on sale with which to plaster my hair when I was a boy, attractive to girls? It didn’t make you bald, just baldish in plastered down hair. I use to do so knowing that girls could smell boys miles away! Not really. Oh such innocent happiness

Somehow, being able to laugh at death, Yul’s bald head, baldness in general, came to mind as I looked at the Skull and bones depicted in the meditation “Memento Mori” by Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill. We’re all going to end up with bald heads, men and women, in a box six feet under pushing up daises, our bodies nourishing Mother Earth as she nourish us, trusting that the Eternal “King” Jesus, and the “I” in all of us will be a Dance! Dance! Dance! experience. No need for the attracting smell of Vitalis anymore!

As a Secular Franciscan 38 years Professed, “Sister Death” as Francis of Assisi named it, dying in and for Jesus has lost a lots of its natural fright, although at times a certain amount tries to raise its ugly head. Its family and friends left behind and that big bowl of Minestrone Soup (!) that creates some sadness towards something which those of us who live by Faith anticipate with wonder and awe.

With God whatever is and whatever is to come are one and the same, no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow, only an everlasting Now! Within that light I tend to hope that Resurrection of the body happens immediately populating heaven, without which the incalculably vast heaven would be home for only two human bodies Jesus and Mary. If not, the persistent question hammers away, “Why?” The “old man” has passed away, the promised “new creation” has happened.

But no matter when, or how, heaven must be fabulous – a vision of it left Paul stammering like an infant uttering first words! So I look forward eagerly. Thanks you, Jesus!


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